Design, Marketing, Page Layout, Self Publishing

How to Design Your Book Cover Like a Professional

How is a great book cover made? Many people like to think that a great cover just materializes, fully formed, in the mind of the designer. The reality is that many factors, such as visual appeal, color, fonts, and audience, all have to be considered before starting. Additionally, a book designer must have the technical skills to put those ideas into print.

Here are four tips on designing your cover from a professional book designer.

1. Think About Your Audience

When creating your book cover, it is critical to consider where your reader will be seeing your book, what they will be looking for, and the feeling or tone of covers in that genre. Before starting your design, I recommend looking online and at local bookstores for books in the same genre as your book.

A fiction cover should appeal to the heart. What is the mood or feeling of your book? If you can pinpoint this, with a little searching, you will certainly be able to find an image that conveys that feeling. You may have better luck searching for concepts rather than things. So searching for “alone” or “lonely house” may provide you a better image than “lost cabin in the woods.”

Common photographic themes that can provide mood:

  • Dark Clouds
  • Shadows
  • Light Rays
  • Facial Expressions

A nonfiction cover should appeal to the mind. A metaphor will get the buyer thinking about what the book may be about. When choosing images, download a copy or sample of any image that you are considering. Try each of your ideas on the cover design with the cover type to see which one is the best before you pay.

2. Keep It Simple

One of the most common mistakes made in book cover design is overcomplicating the cover imagery or being too literal with it. Choosing one image or a direct focal point in the cover image will help your cover be more understandable and more enticing to potential readers. Ask yourself: if you were to drive down the highway and see a billboard of your book’s cover, would you be able to understand and determine what it is at a glance?

3. Focus On Your Title

Your readers need to know what your book called, which means they need to see your title as soon as they see the cover. Making the title your focal point will help direct your readers’ eye and entice them. Part of making your title the focal point is choosing the right font and size.

Choosing a serif vs. sans serif type face: Serifs are generally used more on literary or historical book covers. Sans serifs are used often on thrillers or on non-fiction. Here is comparison of the two types:

Choosing the right font: While it is tempting to choose a “fancy” face, resist this temptation. Many of these treatments absolutely guarantee an unprofessional cover design. Here are a few recommended typefaces:

Placing the type on your cover. It may seem a bit traditional, but you can’t go wrong with centered type! Keep your contrast as high as possible by using pure white type over a dark image, and pure black over a light image. When formatting your title, you may want to use wide letter spacing if your type is going over an image. If your background image is simple, you can choose a type with thinner letters. If the background image is busy, choose a heavier typeface.

4. Rule of Thirds

This is a common guideline or best practice for photography but also relates to book covers. The rule of thirds is a composition style that recommends that you divide your artwork into three main sections, each taking up one-third of the cover. For example, your focal point (usually your title or center element) will take up one third of your cover, while the remaining two thirds would be left open for background elements. Your sections can be divided, vertically, or diagonally. Below is an example cover that utilizes the rule of thirds:

Following these four tips will help give your book a professional look and make it standout among the crowd. Designing a cover should be fun and most importantly it should be something you love.

Check our our cover design portfolio and text design portfolio for a little inspiration.

Community, Design, Local authors, Marketing, Self Publishing, Writing

Author Spotlight: Adventure, Photography, and Postcards with David Robertson

Every book is its own adventure. This is specifically true about one of our authors who has been printing books for a decade with new titles almost every month. His name is David Robertson and he is an exceptional person, author and artist!

I have had the pleasure of working with him on a majority of his books and being able to talk to him about his journey and creative process. He has multiple series of books including family history hardcovers, photography journeys, and a new series of postcard books. When he and his wife are not traveling across the country or the world, he prepares these amazing books for printing. I had a chat with him recently to get his thoughts about his process and here is what he had to say:

GP: What was the inspiration for creating your first book?

DR: I used to do posters and deck of cards and brochures. When I began trying to make something out of our travels, none of these formats seemed to work really well. I would do one trip as a fold out or the like, and another as a deck of cards, but I began to feel they were not working all that well. So, eventually I thought, hmmmm, these trips ought to be a book.

GP: What made you choose Gorham Printing for your books?

DR: I ran a Bioregional Artist in Residence program here at Davis back 20 years ago. One of the artists was Mike Madison and he told me about you. Mike has become quite famous, reviewed in NY Review, etc., and the piece he did in the Artist in Residence became a chapter in his first book. So we deserve some credit here. So On the Road Ecology was my first book ever, except for scholarly books.

David always impresses us when we receive his files. His books are interesting and always pass the file review with flying colors. Out of all his books he has done, he is so meticulous with his editing that I can only remember maybe one time that he made changes to a proof. His editing process works fantastic for him!

GP: What is your editing and proofing process like?

DR: Chaotic! I go through the photos in the iPhone (or what cameras came before) and edit and delete. Then I download them and delete some more and get an idea what “hangs” together. By this time I have an idea of what the book is going to be about. Most of the time the basic idea comes on the trip on the basis of what I see and read. So I make a list on a sheet of paper of what photos might go together. And I make notes of what words might go with them. Then I go back through the photos and on paper say “yes” or “no” or “?” I go away for a few days. Return. Start the book in InDesign. Do a first draft. go away, for a week to a month. This is very important. I get too close to a book, so I have to go away so I can get some distance. I return and most of the time make significant revisions, ever so often change the whole idea because I don’t think it is working. I wait another 2 weeks or so and finalize the MS and after another 2 weeks, send it to you.

GP: How do you sell or give away your books?

DR: I do not sell books, ever. I give them away to friends and family and to anyone who asks for one.

GP: I know you use InDesign for setting up your book now, but have you always used in InDesign? Why did you choose InDesign?

DR: Used Photoshop and InDesign from the start. I decided I would force myself to do no shortcuts. Get the best and learn how to use them.

David has a mix of black & white and color images in most of his books. As part of our PDF Review, we always check to make sure the color count in files are correct. David worked with our team when he first started to understand the best way to set up black and white images to make sure they registered as true black and white images using grayscale settings. His files are always 100% accurate in his color count!

GP: What are the struggles you have faced with designing your book?

Ideas!!! Ideas are the most important ingredient. No idea, no book. (That may not always be true, you understand.) There are two basic ways to “show” photographs. One is as a series of individual pictures, each of which stands alone. Two is a “story.” That’s what I want. Readers of my books should start at the beginning, go through the book as if they were reading a novel, and get somewhere at the end, somewhere they were not at the beginning. Again, you understand, this may not always be true, but I am trying.

GP: You have a few different series of books, including photography travels, family history, and now postcard books. What advice would you give to new authors looking to start self-publishing?

Ask yourself, what do I really want to do. Me, myself, what do I really want my books to be. Then do it. And beware of praise. Praise makes you want to continue doing the things people like, instead of going in your own directions.

David let me know he has another book heading our way soon which will be another Postcard book. We always enjoy seeing his new adventures, new books and working with him. A few years ago he and his lovely wife stopped by our shop on one of their journeys. The team was so excited to meet them!

We hope to make a connection with each one of our authors just as we have with David and perhaps meet you one day as well!

About Us, Additional Services, Marketing

What’s New for Gorham Printing in 2021

It seems as if the world around us changes faster and faster these days. Here at Gorham Printing, we have been working on finding new techniques, tools, knowledge, products and features to help you on your publishing journey. Right now, we have some big news we would like to share with you!

self publishing guidebook

Updated 2021 Guidebook

We would like to announce that our brand new guidebook, Journey Into Self-Publishing, is now available! The new guidebook is made free for authors at any stage of the publishing journey. It covers editing, designing, printing and marketing your book. The guidebook includes a Quick Reference page in the front of the book with an author’s checklist to help you track your progress. Here are a few more things you will see in the guidebook:

  • The new editing section details different types of editing. It has tips on how to do it yourself and what to look for when hiring a professional. It also has information on important publishing numbers such as ISBNs.
  • The new design section includes tips for designing the book yourself and showcases our new design packages. From choosing a program or choosing a font, we have tips for all stages of DIY book design. If you are looking for professional design services, we offer new design packages that fit any author or genre. Check out the new design packages in the guidebook or right now under our Design Services.
  • The print your book section includes example pricing, new promotional programs and new premium add-ons now available. We have added a full page to show off our new premium features and if you haven’t seen it yet, we have added a new section in our Get a Price tool that allows you to select some of our premium add-ons! These include:
    • 3D Spot UV
    • Interior Foldouts
    • CD Inserts
    • Metallic Printing
    • Inside Cover Printing
  • eBook conversions can now be purchased as a standalone service using our eBook Get a Price Tool. Check out the new guidebook to find a first time eBook conversion discount code.
  • The new marketing section will help you price your book. This can be found in the Marketing Your Book section along with other new tips and tricks to get your book out into the world.

Now through June 30th, we are also offering a promotional deal of Free Shipping! For orders of 100 books or more going to one destination, we will pay for your shipping cost. This includes USPS Media Mail and UPS Ground to all 50 states. Start your order today to take advantage and let us make your books a bit lighter.

Even if you’ve received our guidebook before, you can still be one of the first to receive Journey Into Self-Publishing. Order your physical copy or download the PDF instantly.

Our expert team will be writing new blogs each month to give you insight on new techniques and book printing knowledge! Subscribe to the Newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out!